CSC Social Worker Spotlight w. Karen Blackstone

March is National Professional Social Worker month and here at the Children’s Safety Center we are spotlighting our social workers and the many roles they play on our team.

Karen, how long have you worked at the Children’s Safety Center? What is your job role?

When the Children’s Safety Center first opened I volunteered and then created an internship here at the CSC. A month after completing the internship I was hired as a child advocate and then later moved into the forensic interviewer role. So, I have been at the CSC pretty much since the beginning of operation, 22 years. I am also the Multidisciplinary Team Coordinator for Washington County and a Peer Review Facilitator for Children’s Advocacy Center’s of Arkansas.

Why did you become a social worker?

Honestly, I was an undeclared major for undergraduate for two years because my goal was law school. After two years I had to pick a major and I picked social work because I jokingly said “I wanted to bring humanity into the law”. However, after being in the social work program at the University of Arkansas, I found my niche. And after volunteering at the Children’s Safety Center I found my calling.

Something that people might not know about social workers…

Although most get into the field of social work because of wanting to help others from a place of empathy (based on feelings), there are others like me who also want to make the world better from a place of justice and doing what is right for others (thinking).  There are social workers who work on statistics (non-human contact), policy, administration, etc. Social work has so many diverse positions and roles that many do not realize or know.

What is the best thing about being a social worker at the Children’s Safety Center?

For me the best thing about being a social worker at the Children’s Safety Center is the freedoms offered that one might not find in a position within a state or government. Freedom to make decisions regarding the best interest of each client. The freedom to learn, grow and develop as a professional. The freedom to use each staff members strengths and talents and then lean on each other in areas where improvement is needed.

Any advice for someone going into the social work field?

First and foremost, learn about yourself. Know why you want in the field (let this guide your personal decisions and goals). Resolve any family of origin issues you might have prior to working in this field. You cannot effectively help others if you yourself are in a place of brokenness. Have a basic understanding of what self-care looks like for you. Use internships to find the population you want to work with and to find your calling.  Apply what you learn in college and then adapt or change what doesn’t work. Be inventive, flexible and creative. And always, consider the research behind what you are doing. Keep up with current research and allow that to guide your practice.

Fun Facts

Karen has conducted over 4,000 forensic interviews and was the Ordinary Hero Award recipient in 2017.


CSC Social Worker Spotlight w. Caitlin Houk

March is National Professional Social Worker month and here at the Children’s Safety Center we are spotlighting our social workers and the many roles they play on our team.

Caitlin, how long have you worked at the Children’s Safety Center? What is your job role?

I have worked as a Therapist at the Children’s Safety Center for almost three months now. My role with our kiddos is to guide them through Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in hopes to decrease their trauma reactions and symptoms.  I also get to lead a girls group once a week where we create a tight knit and supportive environment for teenage girls who have experienced trauma to process through their emotions in a healthy and healing manner.

Why did you become a social worker?

I decided to pursue a Bachelors and Masters in Social Work after I returned from a trip to Zambia. While I was there I saw the ramifications of trauma and knew that I wanted to be in a position where I could help in any way possible. With a degree in Social Work I know I can help in many different roles but have fallen in love with the role of being a Therapist at the Children’s Safety Center.

Something that people don’t know about social workers…

Social Workers can work with any age from birth to death. Many people have a preconceived idea that Social Workers only job is to take kids away from their homes but that is simply not true. Social Workers fill many roles in our community!

What is the best thing about being a social worker at the CSC?

At the CSC we see many heartbreaking situations but as a Therapist I get to witness the healing side of kids stories. I am also incredibly blessed with an amazing team of supportive and compassionate women that I get to work with every day.

Any advice for someone going into the social work field?

Self-care is so so important. In the field you will have hard and heavy days but having a good support network and self-care plan set up allows you to process through the tough days and not lose your drive and motivation for the work.  I always love the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup” because it is so true for us Social Workers. I know I am able to be the best Therapist to my kiddos when I am taking care of myself as well.


3 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Online Privacy

With spring approaching you’ll have all kinds of activities to share with your family and friends—sports games, piano recitals, dance performances, and family outings. You want to support all of your child’s endeavors and share accomplishments with loved ones. But as you start to post pictures and messages online, be careful of the information you give out. Sexual abuse perpetrators can use things like social media posts to target and build relationships with potential victims.

Information online can easily become accessible to others. Cybersecurity expert Lance Cottrell tells Consumer Reports that parents easily fall into the trap of having unrealistic expectations for privacy when it comes to posting online. As he says, “It’s like I want to hire a skywriter . . . but for nobody else to read it.” Here are a few simple things you can do to protect your child’s online privacy.

Don’t give too much information.

Think of everything you could learn about your child just looking at pictures of things like last year’s themed birthday party or the championship baseball game last spring: likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, extracurricular activities, even the school they attend. If you’re going to post a picture online, try not to include too many details. For example, maybe don’t post a picture of your five-year-old next to a school sign and tell everyone that you’re getting excited for the first day of kindergarten. There’s too much specific information there.

Ensure that accounts are private and secure.

Be aware of the privacy settings on your social media accounts. When you post something, can anyone see it or is it only available to family and friends? The default settings are often more public than you may want. Also, safeguard passwords. If you’re ever using public computers, make sure you use the private mode in a browser and fully logout of any accounts that you’re using.

Consider posting less.

It can be easy to feel like everything is worth a post, but it might not be a bad idea to post a little less. Sometimes enjoying the winning basket is more important than capturing the perfect Instagram shot. Be totally present in the moment a little more often and don’t worry about documenting and posting every little thing. Also, consider asking your child permission before you post. It’s their life you’re documenting, and they might have feelings about what you post, especially as they get older.

Make sure you share this information with your kids too. You want to do everything you can to protect their privacy online and keep them safe, but you also want to teach them to watch out for themselves. Have open conversations with your kids about online privacy and what’s appropriate to post and what’s not, especially as kids get older. Make sure your kids know that if they ever feel unsafe online or if they feel like they’ve made a mistake, they can come to you for help. You can be the biggest teacher and the biggest advocate for your child’s safety and privacy.


CSC Intern Spotlight w. MaGee Smith

Meet one of our new Event Coordinator interns, MaGee Smith. She has been at CSC for almost a month and we are already so thankful for all the work she has done. Get to know a little more about MaGee by reading below.

  • Where are you from and where did you go to college?

I am from Tyler, Texas. I attended the University of Arkansas where my major was Marketing with a minor in Management.

  • Why were you interested in applying to be an Event Coordinator at CSC?

I was interested in the position because I love to plan and am very organized; besides that, CSC is an incredible nonprofit and I am excited to be a part of their team.

  • What have you enjoyed so far about being a part of the CSC team?

Over the last few weeks, I have enjoyed getting to know my boss, Emily, better. She is a very busy woman and I am thrilled to learn from her as she successfully manages such a busy schedule. 

  • What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

I am most looking forward to helping out with the gala in the summer since it is the greatest, coolest event of the year!! However, everything I’ve heard of previous events thrown by CSC has been outstanding so I’m just excited to be a part of the action!

  • Fun Fact!

I love Mexican food!


#SupporterSaturday w. IDK? CAFE

IDK? CAFE and Justin Eaton have been providing scrumptious and creative tastes for the Children’s Safety Center’s biggest event, the Dream Big Charity Gala, for the last few years. This Tuesday, they are providing an amazing Halloween themed spread for our Open House. Stop by the CSC between 4:00pm and 6:00pm to check it out and read below to learn more and all things IDK?

How did you become involved with the Children’s Safety Center?

We started our involvement with the CSC a couple of years ago by providing appetizers for the Dream Big Gala.  It was the perfect way to showcase our food as well as help support a great cause.  Because of that one particular event, we have been able to meet other groups that also needed catering for full meal fundraisers, so it’s been really a win win.

Why do you continue to stay involved?

One of the primary reasons we stay involved is because of the work the center does for our most vulnerable members of society.  We are also the food provider for Washington county head start programs, so we have a special place in our hearts for the kids.  Also, we believe that giving back to our community is the number one way to stay relevant.

What is your favorite thing about the CSC?

Seeing the outcomes in these kids lives.  Knowing that the kids are going to be in a place where they thrive without fear or abuse, where they are free to be kids.  The hand prints.  Every time I see them it makes me smile , even for just a moment.

Why is it important to spread the mission of the CSC to the community?

Not to be completely cliche, but I believe children are our future.  I don’t have all the stats available, but the amount of neglected and abused kids is staggering to me.  Breaking the cycle of abuse starts with teaching these kids and getting them help.

Fun Fact that people may not know?

I spent a week in Nicaragua on a coffee farm.  While there I got to hand out Christmas presents to all the kids.  They were completely fascinated with my electronic devices and I’ve never felt so much genuine affection from people I barely knew.

Please give some background on yourself and what you do professionally.

Justin is the owner of IDK? CAFE.  Head over to their web-page to learn more about the Eaton family and all the wonderful food they provide www.IDKcafe.com



#MissionMonday w. Sam’s Furniture

Sam and Becky Donaldson moved to Arkansas in 1989 with plans to semi-retire after 25 years with a large retail company in California. In 1991 they decided to open their own business. They opened a flea market called “That Place in Springdale” in downtown Springdale. They slowly begin to sell furniture in the Flea Market and Sam found a new passion. They eventually converted it into furniture only and renamed the store “Sam’s Furniture”. Now 27 years later, totaling at 170,000 sq ft, they have grown to be the largest furniture destination in Arkansas! But to close friends and family, they are still just that little place in Springdale.

Joe and Larra Donaldson are the new faces of Sam’s Furniture. You might have seen them on a commercial or two: “Get It At Sam’s”. Now they are one of the Children’s Safety Center’s biggest supporters by not only sponsoring the Partners Plus Prevention awareness lunch and the Dream Big Charity Gala, but by donating a live auction item and also much needed new couches for the Center’s lobby. Please read below to find out why Sam’s Furniture continues to support the CSC in Larra Donaldson’s words.

 

How did you become involved with the Children’s Safety Center?

Sam’s Furniture was gifted tickets to the Children’s Safety Center’s Dream Big Charity Gala in 2017 and that’s where we were exposed to the great work the CSC is doing. We scheduled a meeting with Emily, the development director at the CSC, and were able to take a tour of the facility. Seeing the handprints and hearing the stories of some of these kids was heartbreaking! We immediately found out how we could get involved and jumped in with both feet.

 

Why do you continue to stay involved?

The fact that the CSC provides these services to kids in these devastating situations, as well as the counseling services they provide for the children, is so empowering; it really shows that they truly care about the well-being and safety of the children in our community.

 

What is your favorite thing about the CSC?

It’s so hard to pick a “favorite” aspect of the CSC because I really admire everything that they do, but I have to choose the counseling services. The trauma that these children face isn’t something that goes away once they are removed from the situation. This is something that they will spend their whole lives dealing with and the fact that the CSC offers counseling to these children is the most important thing they can do for those kids.

 

Why is it important to spread the mission of the CSC to the community?

For funding purposes, the more people who are exposed to the work of the CSC, the more funding the center can get to help provide services to the children. Additionally, I believe it’s important for people to realize that this truly is a big issue in our own community. I myself was blinded to the number of children who are suffering in these traumatic situations and the more people who are aware of what’s going on, the better the chances are for these kids to get help!

 

Fun Fact!

Sam’s Furniture spends a third of their marketing budget on community outreach. We believe that investing in our community and giving to those in need is a vital part of our purpose in the world. “To whom much is given, much is required”- Luke 12:48


CSC Spotlight w. Savanah Thorne

Meet our newest child advocate Savanah Thorne. She has been with us almost two months and is already making a huge difference in children’s lives. Get to know Savannah by reading below.

Where are you from? What college did you attend?
Lee’s Summit, Missouri. I went to K State in Manhattan, Kansas where I majored in Human Development and Family Science.

Do you cheer for and/or call the Hogs?
Only if they’re not playing the Cats! #BILLSNYDER4EVER

Why did you apply to be a child advocate?
I love fighting for people and especially kids. I believe in standing in people’s gaps and helping them when really tough things happen, because people have done that for me when I needed it most. Being an advocate allows me to do just that – I get to stand in the gaps for people who are in need of compassion and support!

Favorite thing about working at the CSC so far?
The team! They’re incredibly supportive and empowering and have already made me feel like a member of the family! I’m really grateful for the way they’ve welcomed me in (even if I refuse to watch Big Brother).

Quick story of your favorite client so far and how you helped them.
I had a case where the kids were taken into care, I made a pretty strong connection with one of the girls, and went to visit her while she was staying at the Children’s Shelter. When she saw me she was shocked to see me and questioned why I came to visit her “of all people”. It was a sweet reminder to see the power in just showing up for kids and how consistency and perseverance really makes a difference for them.

Fun Fact!
I LOVE SQUIRRELS SO. MUCH.


#MissionMonday with our Dream Big Co-Chairs

Nathan Harris and Kirby Jett Harris have a passion for helping, especially when children are the mission. They have worked tirelessly to plan, create and implement our Dream Big Charity Gala for over four years now, serving in various roles on the committee. This year they went a step further by becoming the 2018 Co-Chairs of our 11th annual Dream Big Charity Gala.

Below is an open letter that Nathan and Kirby wrote on why they volunteer and why it’s so important that the community help these children by attending the gala. Tickets are still available and can be purchased HERE

(letter written for the event program)

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping’”

-Mr. Rogers

Welcome to the 2018 Dream Big Charity Gala!  Your participation in tonight’s event is an extraordinary investment in the work of the Children’s Safety Center’s programs and dedicated staff and, most importantly, in the lives of the children they serve.

Thanks to generous organizations and individuals like you, all of the Children’s Safety Center’s services are FREE OF CHARGE to every client, every time. That means whether a family comes to the center once for their initial investigation of abuse, or every week for years of mental health therapy, cost will never get in the way of the healing services they need. You make it possible for children and families to get the vital support and resources they need to heal from child physical and sexual abuse.

As the Dream Big Charity Gala continues to grow, so has the need for the services provided by the CSC.  In 2017, the center saw 679 new cases of abuse, just in Washington County.  That’s one child every 13 hours!  Through the first 6 months of 2018, new cases opened at the CSC are up almost 30% over last year.  At an average cost of $1,600 per client, the center relies heavily on private donations to provide these services, and nearly 25% of that support comes from the community of individuals who participate in tonight’s gala.

Tonight, you will see lots of tiny handprints placed around the Fayetteville Town Center.  These handprints are no different than our own at some point in our lives, or even of our own children’s.  While these handprints have no name, they all have a story to be told.  Each of these children has big dreams and a renewed hope for the future because of the support they received from the Children’s Safety Center.

As Co-Chairmen of the Dream Big Charity Gala, we would like to thank all of the committee members, volunteers, and staff who have worked tirelessly to bring this event to life.  These people continue to amaze and encourage us with their dedication and passion for the work of the CSC.

On Behalf of the Children’s Safety Center, we would like to thank you for your attendance and generous support of the 11th Annual Dream Big Charity Gala!  All of the funds raised tonight will go directly to the local support of children in our community.  The return on your investment is extraordinary – protecting our children, helping them heal, and allowing them to DREAM BIG!

Sincerely,

Nathan Harris – United Bank, and Kirby Jett Harris – Truity Credit Union

2018 Dream Big Gala Co-Chairs


#SupporterSaturday with Catering Unlimited

April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. All across Northwest Arkansas you will see signs and pinwheels displayed to raise awareness of child abuse happening in our community and ways to help like calling the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline number, 844-SAVE-A-CHILD, if you suspect abuse.

On this Supporter Saturday we’d like to highlight a local business that has been a partner of the Children’s Safety Center for several years: Catering Unlimited.

 

How did you become involved with the Children’s Safety Center?

Our company is very family oriented as most of our employees have children, so the CSC’s mission really hits home with us. Not to mention the center is right next door to us here in downtown Springdale, so it only seems right to support our neighbors, especially those that do so much good!

 

Why do you continue to stay involved?

We stay involved truly for the children of Washington County. The thought of any harm coming to our families, neighbors, or friends is heart wrenching and we love that the center offers a safe haven for those who need it. As a community, we understand that we have to help when we can and stick together to have a real impact!

 

Why is it important to spread the mission of the CSC to the community?

We think it’s so vital to spread the mission of CSC here because we have an obligation to stand up for those who can’t do it for themselves. We think our community shares a common goal of doing the most good and we think that the safety center does just that!

 

Fun fact about Catering Unlimited that people might not know?

Fun Facts!  As a Springdale native, our owner Mark has lived here all of his life and started Catering Unlimited in 2001. As our name states, our menus are truly Unlimited–nothing is off the table! Each event we cater is infused with the hard work and dedication of our veteran staff, so a lot of our clients assume that our company is very small when in reality we serve nearly 4,000 meals per week to our clients and friends all over Northwest Arkansas.

 

Thank You Catering Unlimited for ALL you do for the Children’s Safety Center, our mission, and the children we serve.

Check out Catering Unlimited’s Website


#SpotlightSunday Partners + Prevention

Last month, the Children’s Safety Center hosted Partners + Prevention, a lunch fundraiser benefiting the mission of the CSC. As a member of Kappa Delta sorority, (a partner of the Children’s Safety Center), I had the chance to attend to do a piece on the event and even talk to the First Lady of Arkansas, Mrs. Susan Hutchinson. Here’s my takeaway from the event:

Partners + Prevention was held at The Apollo in Springdale, what used to be an old theater has recently been beautifully renovated. I got to the event early so I could get the chance to look around and get a feel for the venue before too many people got there. As I walked around the room the first thing I noticed (besides the food), were the colorful centerpieces on the tables. Each table was adorned with a painted handprint of a child. I’ve been to the Children’s Safety Center before, so I was no stranger to these handprints. I knew that each handprint was the handprint of a child who had gone through the center. I also knew that the hundreds or so handprints around the room were but few among the thousands that cover every inch of walls in the Children’s Safety Center. As I drew closer to the handprints I noticed the tiny placards attached to centerpieces. The placards included the name and age of the child whose hand the print belonged to. Sydney age 4, Preston age 9, Joslyn 13, Joshua 4 months … one handprint in particular drew my eye. It was the handprint of Charlie age 5, and included with it was a quote from Charlie as he talked about where he wanted his handprint to be placed in the Children’s Safety Center.

“I want to put my handprint by the door, so you can give me a high-five every day and say, “Good morning Charlie!”

By the time I had made my rounds circling the room, guests had begun filing in. Parents, children, police officers, First Lady Susan Hutchinson, Eric Pianalto the CEO of Mercy hospital, Garrett Lewis of KSFM-TV … I took it as a sign I should find my seat.

Once everyone had found their seat, First Lady Susan Hutchinson stood up to give the opening speech. A former teacher herself, Mrs. Hutchinson stressed how important it is that we protect our children. Mrs. Hutchinson works closely with the Children’s Safety Center and other like it and travels to educate others on the work and importance of the all the advocacy centers in the state. It was quite obvious from her speech, how much not only time, but heart, she had vested into the protection and awareness of child abuse. After she spoke I felt comforted and proud that she is among the leading women in Arkansas.

After the First Lady spoke, awards were given to partners of the Children’s Safety Center: Johnson & Johnson, Sam’s Club, and Stephanie Graham with Washington County DCFS, all of whom had taken time out of their lives to come and support a cause they believed strongly in.

The final speaker of the event was Garrett Lewis. You may know him as the chief meteorologist of KSFM – TV but few could guess the reason he was there to speak. With unbelievable poise and tact, Mr. Lewis told us his story of being sexually abused as a child. Mr. Lewis spoke so well and with so much strength and ease that I (among others I’m sure), wondered how he was able to tell his story so effortlessly – a story that brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. As if reading our thoughts, Mr. Lewis explained that he has told his story so many times that he often forgets how hard it is to tell. With time and practice, his story has become easier to tell, not easy, but easier. He explained that the reason he believes he is okay, mentally and emotionally, is because he was able to get the proper care and counseling as a child. He expressed his gratitude for his mother who was able to pay for the help he needed, but he recognized that there are many other victims that are not so lucky. The counseling and care that he credited as his saving grace, are the very things the Children’s Safety Center provides for free. He then told us that he was abused when he was in kindergarten, the same age his son is now. He told us that it’s become harder as an adult because he sees himself in his child and that he never wants his son to have to go through what he went through. Upon saying those words Mr. Lewis gave the first and only indication of just how hard his story was to tell.

Mr. Lewis ended his speech so perfectly that the only way I knew how to properly capture it was to simply use his direct words. He ended by saying, “You never really live until you know what you’d die for … Child abuse is a topic no one wants to talk, but we should talk about it and be open about it. I tell my story because I know that if I can tell my story, that maybe they can tell their story too.”

Despite the sadness and emotion that surrounds the topic of child abuse, Mr. Lewis’ speech still rang of the same feeling I got when reading the quotes by the children who had gone through the center. Hope. Our county is among the leading two counties in child abuse cases. This April is child abuse prevention month and it’s never too late to give. Regardless of what you give, your donations give voice to children who can’t speak. You give them hope and invest in children and their future. If you can’t take my word for it, then perhaps take the word of First Lady Susan Hutchinson who I had the chance to talk to after the event:

What drew you to the Children’s Safety Center? Why do you think it’s so important for children?

My mom and dad had difficult childhoods. It didn’t have anything to do with child abuse but there were different tragedies and it impacted them and shaped them. My mom always taught me how important children were and the lord certainly teaches us that in his word. And then as a soccer mom, with a big strapping 14-year-old soccer player and hanging out with another soccer mom, one day she confided in me that her dad was a pedophile. That was the first time that I saw normal people doing such things. There was so much pain in her life and in her sisters’ lives and she told me that as a child she would pray to the lord that he would die so her mom would marry a nice man. Her prayers didn’t get answered that way but that’s how sincere the children’s’ prayers were for help. They are desperate, and they need our help and they are crying out to god and we are his answer. So, we have to be ready, and prepared, and on the alert and help those children be in a safe place. We need to help these children know that they were never let to live a nightmare, they were meant to have sweet dreams and blossom, and grow, and trust, and love, and happy, and giving, and strong, and get their education and find out if they’re an artist or a scientist or a horse back rider or whatever. We don’t need this man-made trauma disrupting the person they were meant to be or the life they were meant to live. There’s many adults, in prison today in Arkansas that this was in their past and it was a huge stumbling block for them in their development. Life spans are shortened by as much as 20 years, different health problems develop over the years beside the dysfunction that can happen and the sleepless nights as a grown 40-year-old woman … I met a lady like that. But finding someone you can trust to talk and for them to believe you… for them to find adults that do believe and love them anyway and help them get rid of the nightmares … it can be an amazing world when we listen.

Mollie Bond

University of Arkansas – Kappa Delta Sorority